Dropping 18-year-old from Tricare plan

I have been divorced for 3 years. My former husband is active duty military. He legally adopted my 17 year old. We did the name change, the whole thing. Because he adopted her, he is paying child support and is court ordered to pay half of all medical expenses. Currently my child is covered under TRICARE, the medical insurance he receives through the military. I know for a fact that she can be covered until age 23 as long as she is a full-time student. My ex-husband is threatening to remove her from the health insurance as soon as she turns 18 and graduates from high school. Can he do that?

California Mom

Dear California Mom,

The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that he is done helping her with her medical bills.  Let’s look at all of the steps that would be involved, and her options for getting medical bills paid.

TRICARE will allow him to drop his daughter from the plan.  It’s not clear whether she would be offered Continuation of Health Care Benefits Program (CHCBP), which is TRICARE’s version of COBRA.  CHCBP is offered when the child loses TRICARE because she “aged out” or because she got married.  In this case, she has done neither.  Assuming that she is offered the CHCBP, who should pay for the monthly cost?  The answer might be your ex-husband, depending upon how the court order is worded.

The court order may allow him to drop her from TRICARE, but he may still be on the hook for half of her medical expenses.  Covering her on his plan and paying half her medical expenses are two separate things, in other words.  Take a careful look at the court order and find out what it requires of him.

The court order may state that his duty ends when his daughter turns 18.    She is technically an adult and her medical costs are not his responsibility.  The court order is the deciding factor on whether a hospital or doctor could go after him for his adult daughter’s bills.

If, in the end, your daughter ends up with no health insurance, she has options to consider.  If she attends college, her school may offer a student health insurance plan.  Be careful with these, because many student health plans have a low lifetime benefit limit.  Recently, a college student got Aetna to pay for his organ transplant by tweeting the company’s executives.  Otherwise, his student health plan would have left him with over $100,000 in medical bills.  Your daughter could also look for health insurance on her own.  California health insurers are required to offer what are called “child only” plans; she would qualify for one of these plans.

To get a complete picture of her options, I suggest visiting healthcare.gov.  The site will ask you a series of questions and then display all of the health insurance plans available and suitable for her.


Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.